Peer Tribute from Brennen Jensen
Updated: Jun 11, 2021
Baltimore-based journalist, writer, and published author.
It’s both sad and surprising that Martha and I met only a few years ago. Sad because I wish I could have had much more time getting to know this convivial and fascinating woman with an all-consuming passion for good food and drink. It is surprising because we both splashed around in Baltimore’s small pool of freelance writers for years without bumping into one another. Our names crossed paths on mastheads—Baltimore Style, Urbanite, and others—but it wasn’t until late 2017 that we physically met at an art opening.
It was a fortuitous time, as Martha was just starting her baby: Maryland Sip and Savor, the quarterly magazine celebrating the state’s food and beverage industry. Her enthusiasm for the topic was infectious—she said it was her dream to edit such a magazine—and she asked if I wanted to play a part. We swapped contact info and I sent her some clips. She ultimately offered me a feature story for the inaugural issue. It can be hard to break in new editors but she had a deft hand at the task and kept a writer’s voice intact.
Soon enough our professional relationship became personal after my wife and I were invited to the first of several soirées at her handsome Roland Park apartment. The setting was lovely, the food first-rate, and the company engaging and eclectic. There was an easy elegance and laidback charm to her salon-like gatherings. A highlight was her annual Burns Night Supper honoring the Scottish bard. It included “piping in the haggis” with real bagpipe and drum. I can only imagine her neighbor’s reaction to the cacophony, but they were either all in attendance or were well used to the antics of the colorful lady in the top-floor apartment.
As Sip and Savor blossomed, she sent me crisscrossing the state on assignment: from a mountainside cidery to a bourbon maker by the Bay to a brewery in my own neighborhood. Maryland’s artisanal beverage makers, growers, and chefs had a real champion in their corner with Martha. I can’t say we never locked horns—you want my draft when?—but she was easy to work with and as generous with payments as she could be in a lean business. The last Sip and Savor issue—with a cover story she assigned me—hit the streets just as the pandemic had everyone hitting their sofas for the protracted lockdown. In late April she sent an email to contributors saying the magazine was “on pause.” Everything was paused at that point—well, except Martha. Undeterred by the once-a-century pandemic, I heard this singular personality had gone off on another adventure: moving to the Eastern Shore and opening a bookstore.
You have to be pretty plucky and undaunted to do the things she did: launch a print magazine in the digital age and a bookstore in the age of Amazon. But then that was her all over. Her life was self-defined and unbound. Martha followed her passions, and through a combination warm-heartedness and brio, she strove to share those passions with everyone else.
See more of Brennen's work: